Film that sheds light on young dancers with disabilities in Bayside makes national television premiere

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Photo credit: Catherine Tambini

A Bayside-based documentary changing the conversation about disabilities is making its national television premiere this month.

On Oct. 29, audiences around the country can catch “Perfectly Normal for Me” as part of the public television series “America ReFramed” by the WORLD Channel and American Documentary Inc. (AmDoc). The film takes an intimate look at four young dancers living with physical disabilities and documents their experiences at a local nonprofit, Dancing Dreams.

The film by award-winning director Catherine Tambini debuted at the ReelAbilities Film Festival in 2018. According to Tambini, the film’s “universal appeal” pushed her to submit it for consideration to the “America ReFramed” series.

“It speaks to the universal nature of humans who all want to be valued and accepted,” Tambini said.

As a child, Tambini grew up in environments where people with disabilities were not included. Now, she said that kids are more “accepting and tolerant” but society is “trying to roll kids back into silos” instead of being inclusive. She shared that parents should start conveying the message of inclusion to their children at a young age.

Her producer Elizabeth Hemmerdinger approached Tambini about the idea of working with Dancing Dreams for a film project in 2014. Tambini recalls seeing a video of Veronica Siaba, one of the film’s subjects and thinking what an interesting character she would be in a documentary.

“[Siaba is] so articulate and has such wonderful pearls of wisdom,” Tambini said.

Audiences follow Siaba along with Jake Erlich, Caitlin McConnell and Alexandria Vega in their journey to performing at the Dancing Dreams annual showcase. The film also features the dedication of parents, teenage volunteers and dancer Jenifer Ringer, a former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet.

Since creating the film, Tambini said that through the children’s and teen’s self-acceptance she learned to accept and not be so hard on herself.

“It’s interesting when you watch the audience, you can see them transforming. I’ve had people tell me that they’ll never look at people with disabilities the same way again,” she said.

“Perfectly Normal for Me” premieres on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 8 p.m. on the WORLD Channel and includes audio descriptions and closed captioning. Visit worldchannel.org and click “schedule” to find your local WORLD Channel station.

The film will also be available for streaming on worldchannel.orgamdoc.org and all station-branded PBS platforms including PBS.org, and on PBS apps for iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast.

To learn more about the film, search @perfectlynormalforme on Facebook and Instagram and @prfctlynorml4me on Twitter.

Click here to watch the “Perfectly Normal for Me” trailer.